He Said – Looking Forward
What’s that quote? Living in the past is like driving your car using the rearview mirrors while it is in park. Although there is something to learning from the past, there isn’t much in living in the past. We are all going to make mistakes here and there. Some of us make mistakes here, there and everywhere. But if we focus on the mistakes we made in the past, then we might as well be driving with the car in park looking in the rearview mirror. Living life is a matter of looking forward, learning from the present and applying it to the future.
Think of a regret that you have over something that either you did and wish you didn’t, or that you didn’t and you wish that you had. When is that moment compared to now? In the past. If you focus on it, where do you go? You can’t go back, and you aren’t going forward. But you can take that moment, capture it and apply it to what is coming. It is about being prepared by using what we have experienced to face what is ahead of us. We can’t pretend that something in the past didn’t happen when it did, nor can we pretend that something happened when it didn’t. But we don’t need to focus on either one. Our focus needs to be on the present, moving forward.
The Bible tells us not to be anxious about tomorrow. This doesn’t mean that we don’t think about tomorrow, or that we pretend that it isn’t there. It is going to come whether we want it to or not. It isn’t going to come any faster than it will, even though we may be waiting for that vacation which is right around the corner. It won’t come any slower than it will, either, as we approach something that we don’t enjoy. But we can go forward in confidence that there is One who does know what is coming. We must go forward and there are many reasons why we should.
Going forward gets us going. You know how getting out of bed early in the morning can be so hard and you feel so sluggish? (Unless you are our 6 year old who wakes up with a bounce in her step, a million words a minute and 5 pictures colored before you have a chance to say hi.) Your first effort is just sitting up, then getting your legs over the edge, and finally, while you sit there pondering whether or not you actually slept, you stand up. The more you move, the more you feel like moving. There are times, especially when we are dealing with guilt, doubt, loss or frustration, that we stop moving. We focus on what happened or didn’t happen and that’s it. No movement. We don’t feel like moving. We don’t want to even think about moving. But moving will help us move more and then we will experience more of the benefits of moving.
Going forward gets us closer to a goal. We all have set a goal and felt like we weren’t ever going to reach it. The other day, our daughter wanted to hang on the exercise rings we have hanging in our garage and asked me to lower them. I gave her a goal that if she could jump up and touch one, then I would lower them. (Her first jump was about an inch short, just so you don’t think they were way up by the ceiling and I am just a mean dad!) She had a goal. She started jumping. After a few jumps, she stopped and said, “I don’t think I will ever be able to reach it.” She didn’t realize that each jump she was getting a little stronger. She couldn’t see that she was teaching her muscles how to move in the way she wanted them so they could be more efficient. Her final jump was still about an inch short, but she finished that day stronger. We may not be able to measure the distance covered by moving towards our goal, but we can trust that by moving, we are getting closer.
Going forward strengthens us. Similar to my last example, the more we move, the stronger we get. We are strengthened in ways we don’t see or realize right away. When we can see the growth, the increased strength, it propels us further ahead. It builds on itself in way that doesn’t make sense. Think of Forrest Gump and how he ran across America numerous times. We think that the more we go, the more tired we will become. But in life, it works the opposite. It compounds itself. The more we go, the more we can go.
Going forward narrows our vision. It brings focus. As we get moving, getting closer to our goal, and becoming stronger, our path becomes more focused. Things that would distract us and make us turn to the left or the right become less distracting. Things that keep us on our path are more evident. Many mornings when I am getting ready for the day, I am in the kitchen being as quiet as I can so as not to wake anyone up. I am getting my lunch ready for the day, making coffee, making my Spark vitamin drink, making my breakfast and getting what I need for the day together. There are times when I am all over the place and in no order at all doing more work than needed and feeling discombobulated. Then there are days where I have the system down, I have the timing down, and I am efficient, effective and smooth. Going forward helps us to become more efficient, effective, and smooth.
But just going forward isn’t the key. It isn’t the whole story. It isn’t the three step (pun intended) program that will solve all of your life’s questions. It is just a part of it. It is a very necessary part of what we need to do. Going forward can only be accomplished if you know where you are going. In order to know where you are going, it is best to have someone who knows the way to show you. There is One who knows the way and desires to show you, step by step, every day, where to go. He has given us his Word as a light unto our path to guide the way. He knows the whole path that you will take, the choices you will make and the obstacles that you will face.
As you follow Jesus, you will be moving. You have to move in order to follow Him. Not only will you get closer to your goals, you will find yourself letting go of some of the things that at one point, you thought were necessary but now realize they are more of a distraction. You will be strengthened. It takes faith to follow Jesus as he just shows you the next step. That next step may look like it is a cliff, but it isn’t a dead end, but rather a firm foundation. The more you step where you are unsure, the more your faith and trust will grow, and the more you will move forward. You start looking to where Jesus is leading you and less at where you think is better, narrowing your focus, your desires and allowing you to let go of distractions. You will actually look through the front windshield and put your car in drive and as you depress the gas pedal, the Spirit will propel you forward. Keep looking forward.
I am looking forward and I am living purely for Christ.
She Said – Looking Forward
As I go through life, looking forward is a pretty smart thing to be doing. If I spent all of my time looking back while I am moving forward, I am probably going to get tripped up on some things. I may even get hurt. So what does that look like when you have some life behind you? Maybe you have some sinful decisions you have made that have come with some serious consequences that you are facing in the here and now.
I have some life behind me. I have some kinda bad and some REALLY bad choices that I have made. However, I have to look forward. Not in a way that I forget where I have been, but in a way that I am not focused on things of the past. These are things that I cannot change and now I must trust that God allowed them to happen in my life for a purpose. He wants to use those things to be a benefit to me or to others.
Philippians 3:7-11 says to put everything behind you and count it as trash. (Paraphrased) That means the good and the bad. Keep in mind that is our own definition of good and bad as God is going to use all of those choices to refine us.
When Rob first made a decision to move to California, I didn’t think too much of it. I didn’t really believe that he was going to do it. There had been too many times that he had let me or Colby down by not following through with something. I figured this was going to be one more of those types of things. As the Spirit continued to move in Rob, quickening him to get to Colby and put his personal life aside, I started to pay more attention. This time he was following through.
Some time before his move, Rob and I had extended forgiveness to one another for the past. Don’t forget, on my plate of burdens from my past was that in order to “pay him back” for not marrying me after having a baby with me, was to quickly marry someone else and move 1,000 miles away from him intentionally to get away from him. My looking back on that cost Rob about 12 years of our son’s life, loads of strife between us, plus my own personal drama that I had gone through due to my kneejerk reaction to Rob’s fears and my anger.
After he moved to California, I had to look forward. God wanted to use this new time for a new purpose. He wanted me to give Colby back in my heart and allow them to grow in their relationship as father and son. I had a new opportunity to “share” Colby with Rob and to do my best to catch him up on Colby’s life, his interests, and his activities. So I looked forward. I still had done what I had done, but in our current time, God was redeeming my and Rob’s sin.
From there, we saw our new friendship grow and we caught glimpses of something we didn’t want to admit to ourselves, or each other. We had a past. There was so much yuck to look back on. I could take all of that past stuff, the sinful choices and the terrible decisions and say to myself, “It will never be different.” I could keep my heart closed, not necessarily to Rob, but to the Lord. And I knew that God was doing a work just for that fact that we were now friends and we were able to talk about some of that yuck from the past without any anger towards one another and from a newly birthed perspective with our new and different God lenses on. We were being restored and redeemed. Not as a couple, but to God as His children.
In the Bible, Moses was called to a ginormous task in saving the Israelites from Pharaoh and Egypt. Culturally, growing up as and with the Egyptians, Moses could have felt indifferent towards or even not liking the Jews. He knew that he was from that people group, but it’s possible he felt a sense of arrogance because he was taken from the slave life and now lived in the palace with the king. He may have either been shielded from, or turned a blind eye to the injustices being done to the Israelites.
“Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” – Exodus 2:11-12
Until one day when as a grown man, Moses recognized the wrong, but made a poor choice in how to handle it by killing an Egyptian. So he ran. He ran in fear of his life as Pharaoh heard what he had done and wanted to kill him. I was like Moses in my life. In fear, I ran. I took my son and ran from my circumstances, I ran from my troubles and I ran from God.
After being called by the Lord, Moses could have just have kept looking back and told himself and God that he was not worthy to do anything for God, that his earlier actions would continue to dictate his future. (He did actually try to get out of it at first.) But no! Moses was called, and ultimately he moved. Surely, even with the explanation from the Lord, Moses probably did not understand the enormity of what God was going to do through him. Nonetheless, he still left his home and the life he had built. He went out. He looked forward.
So as Rob and I continued growing in obedience to God, He continued to be faithful to us and to chisel away so many years of our wilderness walk when we tried to do things our own way without God. All the while, He was there knowing the future. He is ALWAYS looking forward. God see’s it and knows it.
There are still times today where I can get caught up looking back. I feel bad for the past and choices I made to hurt myself, Rob or my kids. I feel like I am a nobody and can’t really accomplish anything. There are still some consequences in my life that stem from that time past. It is in these moments where I am amazed by God’s grace and mercy. I am overwhelmed at His love, forgiveness and compassion. None of it matters anymore because I am looking forward, and God is doing a work. Probably something I cannot even totally see yet. Maybe this is my “Moses with the sheep” season of growth, or I could be in my own personal version of the return to Egypt. All I know is that it is for a purpose. I look forward to what God is yet to do and I do not need to slip on the past any longer. God has called me, and He is calling you.
What things in your life do you still carry as a burden of regret? Are there past or even current choices in your life that you can’t or don’t want to forgive yourself or others for and you feel trapped? Remember, when the Apostle Paul was accused in his life, he claimed all of those things of his past to be true. Not for himself, but for the glory of God. (See previous: Do Not Be Ashamed) Now Paul would be looking forward to what was yet to come.
How excited the Lord must be for you!! He sees the “forward” to your life and knows how those things on your heart from the past do not define you, but will refine you by the power of the Holy Spirit. May you be strengthened by the Lord today to trust Him completely with your life and with what He knows is next.